HURST REPORTS ON CABIBET of Wednesday 1 June 2022

All members of Cabinet were present, except for one Minister who joined the meeting by virtual means.

1. i. The Prime Minister gave reports on several meetings he has had and agreements that have been entered into. He announced that a team from Saudi Arabia will visit Antigua from June 21 – 25, 2022 to examine the UWI Five Islands expansion as planned and will advance discussions with the Government and UWI for a $75,000.00 USD facility.

 ii. An agreement will be entered into shortly regarding the brewery at Crabbes Peninsula. An Antiguan company has agreed to utilize its own and borrowed resources from a local bank, in order to proceed with the re-development of the Antiguan Brewery. More than $16.5 million dollars will be borrowed for the investment; the loan is to be repaid over fifteen (15) years. Two other investment groups will hold shares in the brewery to include NAMCO, which will hold 20% of the shares, and the German experts will hold 15%.

2. The Cabinet held a discussion about Carnival 2022 with the Minister of Creative Industries playing a pivotal role in the decision-making. Every effort will be made to have a Panorama 2022; the effort will include providing some resources to the steelbands that are likely to participate, and ensuring that there is adequate space on the stage to ensure that the bands can play their tunes to the applause of an ARG audience.

3. i. The Cabinet took a decision to extend the Construct Antigua and Barbuda Initiative (CABI) to June 30 2023. The waiver of ABST on building materials and fixtures will continue; but, the value of the homes has increased from $350,000.00 to $500,000.00 taking into account the higher cost of materials since Covid.

ii. The Minister of Housing, Lands and Urban Renewal reported that the first starter home is just about completed; four other starter homes are also under construction They cost $125,000.00 and National Housing will commence building others almost immediately at several sites across the country. The plan is to mix both the starter homes with other homes to be built by National Housing so that there will be opportunities for upward mobility. The mortgage payments are to be restricted to $800 – $1000.00 per month, well within the rental payments currently being made by tenants who will now become homeowners.

4. The Minister responsible for Immigration reported that more than 4,000 applications for amnesty have been received by the Immigration Department; the programme expires June 30, 2022. The applications are divided into two batches. One batch goes towards those who have spent seven or more years in Antigua and Barbuda, and therefore qualify for citizenship; the other batch comprise those who have spent four or more years in the country and therefore qualify for residency. The Cabinet determined that it will set a new policy regarding those who are eligible for citizenship. There will be no lawful need for any prospective citizen to apply for a work permit during the wait for the conferring of citizenship.

5. The Minister responsible for Public Utilities reported that with the replacement of cartridges and the membranes at the R/O plants at Crabbes Peninsula, the plants now produce 250,000 gallons more than they did before. A sufficient stock of membranes and cartridges are on hand at APUA, knowing the logistical/shipping challenges spawned by Covid.

6. The Minister of Health, Wellness and the Environment informed the Cabinet that there is no need to change any of the protocols governing Covid at this time. The determination is dependent on the number of hospitalizations of patients suffering Covid; at the moment the number of persons hospitalized with Covid is zero. The infected patients, numbering less than 200, are isolated; that number has begun to decline following the post-Labour Day swing upwards that was registered.

The Minister continues to warn nationals and residents about Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) that plague the communities throughout Antigua and Barbuda. Too much salt, sugar and starches form part of the diet that imperils the good health of the Antiguan and Barbudan people, he remarked. Sedentary lifestyles contribute significantly to NCDs and, therefore, people of all ages are encouraged to walk, run and practice healthy lifestyles and to eat balanced meals.

7. i. The Minister of Tourism reported that June and July 2022 will see 70%-80% of all hotel rooms booked. The summer season appears likely to become one of the best summer tourism seasons ever. The winter tourism season just ended was also outstanding; the season witnessed hotels near capacity at all times.

ii. The Jolly Beach Hotel will likely open its doors in November 2022, for the first of 200 hundred rooms will be repaired by then. The Elite Resorts will operate the Hotel until the matter pertaining to an unlawful charge against the asset is removed. Discharge can only be achieved by the Courts; the action in the courts has already started and is expected to take two years.

8. The construction of the expanded ABICE is to begin in four weeks. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Education returned from London last week with a cheque for 4,000,000.00 Pounds sterling to expand ABICE by building a new learning facility. The 4,000,000.00 Pounds sterling were contributed by a Mr. David Harrison whose name will appear on the new building: The Harrison Center Antigua and Barbudaa School of Continuing Education.

9. The National Cleanup will begin in two weeks. Abandoned vehicles, rotten and abandoned houses, and clogged drains will be cleaned thoroughly in community after community. A phalanx of backhoes, trucks and sanitation engineers will work to make Antigua and Barbuda shine, the Minister reported. 

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